Japan tests everyone arriving in China for COVID as cases surge

Tokyo – Japan on Friday began requiring COVID-19 testing for all passengers arriving from China as an emergency measure against the outbreak The number of infections there has skyrocketed As the Asian island nation faces rising case numbers and a record death toll.

Japan reported a record 420 new coronavirus deaths on Thursday, up from a record 415 deaths in a single day a day earlier, according to the health ministry.

The figure is higher than the daily death toll at its peak earlier in August, when the death toll topped 300. The cause of the latest increase is unclear but may be related to worsening chronic conditions in older patients, experts said.

effective Friday in Japan tightening border measures It announced earlier this week that the antigen tests already carried out on arrivals suspected of having COVID-19 are now mandatory for all arrivals from mainland China. Those who test positive will be quarantined at designated facilities for up to seven days, and their samples will be used for genomic analysis.

The measures come ahead of the New Year’s holiday marked by travel and parties. For now, direct flights between China and Japan will be limited to Japan’s four main airports, government officials said.

Flights from Hong Kong and Macau will be allowed to land at three additional airports — Hokkaido’s New Chitose, Okinawa’s Naha and Fukuoka — provided passengers have not been to mainland China in the seven days before the flight.

Hong Kong authorities called the restrictions “unreasonable” and asked Japanese authorities to withdraw them. Before adding three more airports for flights from Hong Kong and Macau, authorities said 60,000 passengers and about 250 flights would be affected between December and January.

Travel agencies in Hong Kong are scrambling to reschedule flights for clients to minimize losses. Steve Huen Kwok-chuen, executive director of travel agency EGL Tours, said his company was forced to cancel some tours after Japan initially decided to limit flights from Hong Kong to only four airports in Japan. After Thursday’s policy change, his staff tried to call customers who had canceled their trips, but were unable to get all of them back.

About 500 customers who planned to travel to Japan between late December and early January lost ground, Huen said.

“After suffering for three years, we thought there would be a silver lining,” he said. “But these restrictions have cost us some business.”

Japan earlier this year stopped requiring COVID-19 tests for arrivals who had at least three shots – part of a cautious easing of measures after the country all but closed its borders to foreign tourists for about two years. This year’s holiday is the first without virus restrictions, other than the recommendation to wear masks and get tested.

The country is currently reporting around 200,000 known cases per day.

At a meeting earlier this week, experts warned that the rapid spread of flu this winter also had the potential to add to the strain on the healthcare system.

China recently rolled back anti-virus controls that kept the country isolated for almost three years, announcing plans this week Reissuing passports and visas for travel abroad. That could send many Chinese out of the country for the Lunar New Year holiday in January, raising concerns about the possible spread of the virus.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Friday that China continued to monitor virus mutations and share information, stressing the importance of a science-based approach.

“We hope that the Japanese side can take a correct and objective view of China’s epidemic situation and policy adjustments, and take scientific and proportionate measures to ensure normal cross-border exchanges between the two peoples,” he said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the agency needed more information on the severity of the outbreak in China.

“In the absence of comprehensive information from China, it is understandable that countries around the world are acting in ways they believe will protect their people,” he tweeted Friday. “For a comprehensive risk assessment of the local COVID-19 situation in China, WHO needs more detailed information.”

India, Italy, South Korea and Taiwan have also responded to the wave of infections in China by requiring virus testing for travelers from China.The U.S. said on Wednesday that it would require Testing of all travelers from China Starts on January 5th.

South Korea announced on Friday that starting Jan. 5, it will also require travelers from China to present negative PCR test results within 48 hours of departure, or rapid antigen test results within 24 hours of departure.

From Monday, all tourists from China will also have to undergo a PCR test within a day of arriving in South Korea, Jee Youngmee, director of the Korean Agency for Disease Control and Prevention, said. South Korea will also limit the number of flights from China and limit short-term visas for Chinese citizens, except those visiting for diplomatic, essential business or humanitarian reasons, until at least the end of February.

Thai authorities said they were considering requiring negative virus tests and other restrictions for travelers from China.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, China stopped issuing visas to foreigners and stopped issuing passports to its own people.

___

Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, and Kanis Leung and Zen Soo in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.